Laura (tavella) wrote,

Unnatural Wontons

Inspired by Alton Brown's recent show on the subject, I picked up a package of wonton skins while shopping.

I had a couple of cans of crab, brought in a moment of insanity, that had been sitting on my shelves for a while, so I decided to make crab cheese puffs, also know as Crab Rangoon. They are one of those completely non-chinese Chinese appetizers, probably dating from the 50s (or 'mid last century' -- god, that makes me feel old), that basically consists of cream cheese and crab in wonton skins, deep fried in oil. Unnatural and unhealthy, but damn they are tasty. Most recipes suggested a six ounce can of crab to one package of cream cheese, but the crab I had was Empress brand, which turns out to consist of thin shreds of meat suspended in a great deal of water. This probably explains why they were on sale for half off. Once drained, the resulting crab was maybe a third of a can, so I only used half a package of cream cheese for each one.

There were lots of recipes on the net, many of which had complicated recipes involving garlic powder or worchestershire sauce, but my favored version of this at Su Hong has a flavor profile that doesn't suggest a lot of ingredients. So I did one batch with crab, cream cheese, and a small shallot bulb finely chopped, and one just cream cheese and crab. The shallot version pulled more strongly towards the savory than the Su Hong imitation I was trying to achieve, while the plain one was closer but didn't seem to have quite the same tanginess. It may be a missing ingredient, but it's also possible that it's the difference in crab. I used real crab and I think the Su Hong version is done with fake crab.

Both versions were quite tasty, though, and I wish I had taken a picture for food_porn as they looked quite attractive all golden brown, puffed, and piled into a bowl. The cooking part is quite simple; various recipes suggested up to 350 degree oil, but since I didn't have a thermometer that registered that high, I just heated the oil until I saw a few bubbles and then tested it with a wonton. If there was immediate bubbling and the wonton floated to the surface, I put in the rest. One recipe suggested '2 minutes on each side', which boggled me; I can only think they were using lukewarm oil, because my version was put them in, wait just a few seconds for the edges to start to turn brown, start flipping them and by the time you are finished flipping the last one it's time take the first ones out.

Since I had hot oil and wonton wrappers, I decided to try a few experimental wontons.

Apple and cheddar cheese: tasty, but didn't really add anything extra to the delight of apple and cheddar. Might try some cinnamon sugar on top if I ever do them again.
Fresh tomatoes from the garden, chopped, salted, and drained, and mozzarella: damn tasty, though I think a little fresh basil or oregano would have added to it.
Cream cheese and pepper jelly: OH MY GOD. Little tiny FLAVOR BOMBS in your mouth. Sooooo good. I like cream cheese and pepper jelly on ritz crackers, but these were so much better. The warmth brings out the flavor of the cream cheese, the pepper jelly makes a little pocket of deliciousness, and the crispy-chewy texture of the wonton is much more interesting than a dry ritz.

However much fun these were, deep frying is really not my favored method of cooking. So I also made some potstickers.

Version one, pork, used the potstickers recipe from the Usenet cookbook.

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 small Chinese (Napa) cabbage, cored and chopped
1 green onion, coarsely chopped
2 thumb-sized slices fresh ginger, minced
2 water chestnuts, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil

For the first batch, I used a level tablespoon of filling per wonton, but that resulted in a potsticker that didn't quite balance filling and wrapper, so for the rest I used something more like a heaping teaspoonful. The resulting wontons were good, but not as savory as I would have liked. I think next time I'll add garlic and maybe some soy sauce to the filling. And this is one of the times I wish I had a food processor, as I think the texture would have been better if I had been able to process the cabbage and green onion more finely. The water chestnuts seemed pointless -- I used them because I've been doing a lot of stir fries lately and so I didn't mind opening a can, but they don't seem to add anything significant to the filling and opening a can for just two is a waste.

I also had a tub of tofu I wanted to get rid of, so:

Version 2, vegetarian:

1 block tofu
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped fairly fine (most recipes suggested dried shiitakes, but they have a taste that makes me nauseous)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 ts salt
1/4 ts white pepper

1 tb sesame oil
1 tb vegetable oil

4 chopped green onions
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1/4 ts red chili pepper flakes

Drain the tofu, wrap it in paper towels, and put a weight on top to press out more water. Then mash and crumble it to a hamburger like consistency. Add the chopped mushrooms, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper and mix. Then heat the oils in a pan and lightly brown the onions, garlic, ginger, and chili. Add the tofu mixture and cook until the mushrooms are soft.

The resulting potstickers were tasty, but on the bland side. I think I'd definitely at least double both peppers if I made these again.

Various recipes suggest elaborate sealants of egg, egg white, or cornstarch water for wontons, but just wetting two edges and sealing the triangle worked fine for me.
Tags: cooking
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